Medical Malpractice

440,000 Deaths Annually from Preventable Hospital Mistakes

A patient safety study estimates that more than 400,000 American deaths are associated with preventable harm done to patients in hospital settings.

According to the Journal of Patient Safety study, preventable adverse events (PAE’s) contributing to deaths from care in hospitals cause one-sixth of all deaths that occur in the United States each year.

The study’s author, John T. James, PhD, is the founder of Patient Safety America, which provides newsletters on patient safety and advances in medical technology and care that may affect patient safety. The site is dedicated to his 19-year-old son who died by the medical errors of his treating cardiologist in 2002.

The Evidence-based study is based on a compilation of four other studies utilizing the Global Trigger Tool (GTT) in order to assess patient adverse events leading to healthcare harm. The GTT is a standardized method of identifying and measuring adverse event triggers or “clues” documented in former patient records, leading to possible adverse events, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), who developed the GTT.

Interestingly, the study referenced another source that found that patients reported 3 times as many preventable adverse events than were indicated in their medical records. The study also found that more errors were identified by direct observation rather than by the inspection of medical records. The study also noted a national survey that found that physicians often refuse to report serious adverse events, with cardiologist being the highest of the non-reporting groups.

The Office of Inspector General reported that 86 percent of patient harm events were not reported by hospital staff as they either did not perceive the event as reportable, or did not report an event that was commonly reported, in its 2012 report Hospital Incident Reporting Systems Do Not Capture Most Patient Harm.

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